Friday, 31 July 2015

Book Spotlight: Forte by JD Spero

Today I'm part of the blog tour for a great YA fantasy book, Forte by award-winning author JD Spero. It's another wonderful release by Xchyler Publishing, and I'm happy to spotlight this book. Also, there's an excerpt and a great Rafflecopter giveaway at the end of the post so be sure to check that out.  So on with the show, and enjoy...

Forte by JD Spero

Forte is available at: 


 Johannah Davies (JD) Spero was born near a pristine lake in the Adirondacks and has lived in various cities such as St. Petersburg (Russia), Indianapolis, Dallas, and Boston. She has pursued her love of narrative through degrees in English, Russian, and teaching—and has worked as an actress, a yoga instructor, a web design entrepreneur, freelance writer, and a high school English teacher. She lives in the Northeast with her husband and three young sons.

Drawing on her experience as a high school teacher—this time with a social concern, Spero infuses the rites of passage for the teenager—cliques, first kisses, peer pressure, and bullying—with magic. This stresses how tenuous and critical this time is for young people in a new, fascinating way. Written from Sami’s point of view, Spero’s narrative puts the reader into the mind of a fifteen-year-old who must navigate the tumultuous waters of being the new girl—the underdog who starts to win and is intoxicated by it. Truly a page-turner, this action-packed story will have readers of all ages eager to see what happens next. 

Spero’s debut novel, Catcher’s Keeper, was chosen as a Finalist in the 2014 Indie Excellence Book Awards contest and also made the top 5% out of 10,000 entries in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  

Facebook, Twitter: @jdspero, Goodreads

The Author Visits


(Main character, Sami McGovern, a natural musician is recruited to try out for volleyball.)

Finally, the time has come. I ride the giant wave to the locker room, letting myself get sucked into the energy. It’s like every single freshman girl is going to tryouts. The excitement is contagious. The locker room has transformed into a sort of primping party. It’s a more amped up version of backstage before one of my piano recitals. I’m giggling as I change into gym clothes and follow the others onto the court.
But I stop short on the sidelines.
Payne has the girls running the court lengthwise, tapping the endline paint with their fingers, and running back. What’s this exercise called again? I see Maddie, Shaunie, and Thalia. Pixie is here too, looking miserable. She’s not awful, though.
“Nice work, Maddie,” Payne calls across the gym.
Okay, so Payne has favorites. No biggie. Has she already made the cuts? I have better chances trying out for the New York Philharmonic. What am I thinking? I’m no athlete. They’re all going to laugh at me. Maybe it’s not too late to make a quick exit.
“Are you playing?” asks a voice beside me.
My eyes don’t leave the court. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll just watch.”
“Me, too, then.”
“Why?” I turn and am startled to see it’s the girl with the scarred neck.
“I thought you might want a friend.”
The scars look terrifying up close—shiny, raw strings of bumpy tissue that used to be skin. My mouth is stuck open, and I blink like mad.
“I’m Brenna,” she says with a huge smile. “Sports aren’t really my thing.”
“Sami.” A tiny wave. “Me, neither.”
“What are we doing here, then?” She laughs.
“You have a really nice smile.”
“You sound surprised,” she teases.
I must turn redder than her scars, my face is so hot. Because it’s true. I was surprised. Am surprised. It’s wrong, but I can’t help it.
Payne’s whistle interrupts us. “You girls joining tryouts or just socializing in your gym clothes?”
No time for apologies. Payne’s eyes are focused solely on me. “Come on. You’ve missed the warm up. On the court now. Let’s go.”
A nervous laugh with Brenna, and I concede. Whatever. This tryout is another orientation thing, right? A rite of passage for the new girl. It will be over soon, and I’ll go home and use my fingers the way they were meant to be used. Piano. What kind of tune will I conjure, what will my muse inspire? I’m daydreaming as I wander into the middle of the court.
Payne’s voice rings louder than her whistle.
“No, Sami. Right in front.”
In front? Me?
Payne grasps my shoulders to place me at the net when I feel something strange. My chest tightens with panic—a force enters me, making my insides quiver. What’s happening?
A jolt, vibration. A charge surging out from my chest to my fingertips, my toes.
The faces around me blur, but the ball is radiant. A blue glow. The ball sails over the net. Bumped. Set. To me? I leap, and it’s like my feet sprout wings. Out of nowhere I reach and—
It slaps the opposite court untouched. A clean strike.
“Point,” Payne cheers.
My body tingles. How on earth did I do that? And then I do it again.
I zone in. That neat leather ball leaves a laser-blue contrail as it’s punched into the air. I know what will happen next. I can predict its path! Am I the only one who sees it glow like that?
Bump, set, spike!
Wahoo! I’m a giant, tapping a ping-pong ball with my big paw. Easy. I’m above everything. Everyone. Even Brenna—the one person who’s tried to be my friend—now wears a worried grin. Something has separated us.
I’m separate from everyone.
The ball comes again. Soaring, my hand curved in perfect form, I guide it over at cheetah-speed that somehow feels slow. My arm retracts within a millimeter of the net, but it feels like yards away.
Everyone cheers. For me.
How did I get so good?
My eyes go to Payne, who’s already studying me. As much as I want to, I cannot turn away. My arms and legs tingle—itching to move, to play ball. The veins in my wrists pulse like a heartbeat. My birthmark throbs on my hand, ready to throttle that volleyball. I make fists, trying to contain it.
I stare back at Payne, the question ringing loudly in my mind: Did you do this?
She gives me a slow, wry smile. Goose bumps rise on my suddenly-athletic arms.
I think I’ve just made the team.

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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Violets and Aliens

We head to space today on Drabble Wednesday, with a very colourful voyage…

Purple Haze

See the universe, it said.
That damn poster.
Join the Galactic Space Corp.
I should’ve never let it draw me in.
Now I am stuck on this backwater world. Stuck in a dumb menial security gig at the spaceport. And worst of all, I am stuck where everything—and I mean everything, the sky, the clouds, the rain, the soil—is a damn, rotten shade of purple!
Sighing, I lean my body against the bar and signal for a shot of Reposado. The bartender pours and slides the glass over to me.
Oh, frak! Even the damn tequila is purple.


Falling Petals

“She loves me.”
He yanked the oversized petal free of the plant, and smiled at the accompanying screech.
He let the violet frond fall from his fingers. It floated softly earthward.
“She loves me not.” Another yank, another screech, and smile. Another petal drifted free.
Repeatedly he took this action, ripping away sections until one last petal remained.
“She loves me!”
He let that petal fall with the others. The last piece in a patchwork of sentient alien flora, a mauve blanket covering a bound and gagged woman.
“You love me.”
The woman and mutilated alien plant wept in unison.



I miss the mountains most of all.
I loved to wake up to that view. With their snow capped, amethyst spires stretching to the heavens, and the lavender mist enshrouding their foundations. The sky painted itself in vivid colour, mauve and tangerine, with a hint of cerise. The hues reflected in the river, tinting the water as it wended through our village. You wanted to fill your lungs with crisp morning air.
Space is nothing like that. It’s frigid and black and the escape pod’s dwindling air supply is stale. I don’t want to die. I want to go home.


© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Drabble Wednesday: Midnight

From the forgetfulness of my mind and the call of my midnight muse, I bring you today’s Drabble Wednesday, scribbled in the wee hours of last night…

Witching Hour

The night bird sings in the treetop, keeping time with the warble of the wind. Above them, the moon glows, pale blue and full, lighting the way of the coming traveller. She treads softly, her footsteps a bare whisper across dirt and leaves as she wends her way through the forest. She smiles at the moon and joins the night bird’s song with a faint humming. She has come to sing to ghosts and spirits, to weave her spells and laugh with the joy of magic. She belongs to this place, this time, the midnight of the pale blue moon.

Midnight in Paris

Watch the clouds drift in the indigo sky, playing hide and seek with stars, and the coquette, silver moon. They beckon, those celestial beauties, flashing their siren gaze earthward. They glint and twinkle starlight and moonbeams to the city streets, and reflect their radiance off the steel beacon of the Eiffel Tower.
This is Paris at night, in darkened splendour, alive with the quiet, and the gentle sounds of evening. Hear the Seine ripple, against soft laughter and the click of heels. Amidst it all we linger, strolling hand in hand, midnight lovers waiting for the morning sun to rise.

Midnight Man

The crow caws once, then twice more. The air shivers, and the grass bends at the edge of the woods. A cold, grey fog rolls in, thick as wool, carrying a silhouette. A figure.
Can you see him now? The Midnight Man.
Tall and gangly, all angles and crisp bits, dressed in black. He wears a long coat and a top hat. The crows gather round him in flight, and one perches on his spindly arm.
Stay quiet. Don’t let him see you.
You mustn’t look into his eyes… they say his eyes are hollow. Inky voids sinking into death.

© A. F. Stewart 2015 All Rights Reserved 

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Interview With Author Dani Hoots

Today, I have a great interview with the prolific, multi-genre writer, Dani Hoots. Enjoy...

Interview with Author Dani Hoots

Why don’t you begin by sharing a little about yourself.

Well, I am an author that resides outside Seattle, Washington with my husband and two cats. I have a B.S. in Anthropology and a Masters of Urban and Environmental Planning from Arizona State University, where I am also enrolled in an online program for Novel Writing through the Piper Center at ASU. My hobbies include learning German and Swedish, playing the violin, volunteering for conservation organizations, and watching anime and reading manga. I also love working at conventions, such as Comic-con, where I get to meet my readers and other artists like me.

You have an impressive array of novellas and series. Could you tell us a bit about your books?

Yes. I have five series currently that are either finished or I’m in the middle of them, along with some free short stories that are available for download. They all range from science fiction, fantasy, to horror and romance.
A Falling Starr Trilogy follows Angela Starr as she can’t remember who she is, and is taken to a new world and finds out that it is her home. She must figure out who exactly she was in this world and why there are so many people after her.
A World of Vampires Series follows different myths and legends throughout the world about vampires, and each novella has to do with a different character in a different place and time in history as they discover these creatures. My stories range from 1930’s Boston, following the Native American version of a vampire called a Hooh-Strah-Dooh, to 1700s Scotland with the Baobhan Sith, and the newest one to be released is set in 16th century Chile with the Peuchen legend.
The Sanshlian Series, which includes my first indie published novel The Quest, follows Arcadia Rieturf who was taken from her family and trained to be the Emperor’s Shadow. She becomes emotionless and ruthless, believing in everything her master, the emperor, does—that is, until she runs into her long lost brother who wants to find the legendary planet of Sanshli, which can be used to destroy the Pandronan Empire and bring back the New Republic that once ruled. Now Arcadia must choose between her loyalty and her family.
My Broken Heart Series is a collection of different romance stories of people who have had their heart broken. For this, I decided to do all types of “doomed to fail” relationships including a girl falling in love with her father’s intern, a graduate school teacher-student romance, boss-employee relationship, and so on. This series also includes two LGBT novellas that have not yet been released.
Lastly, I have a series called Damon Salvatore: Life After Lost that I published through Kindle Worlds. This is through The Vampire Diaries and follows Damon just after he runs off from Mystic Falls after he is turned into a vampire.

You are also working on a comic called Hel's Labyrinth. What’s the premise, and how does working on a comic differ from writing a book?

Hel’s Labyrinth follows a girl named Phoebe who unwillingly gets trapped into Niflhel, the Scandinavian underworld, with seven other circus attendees. There, they have to face Norse mythical beings that are trying to kill them and survive to the end of the labyrinth to face Hel herself, as she is the one behind it all and is trying to bring Ragnarok to end the world. To learn more about it and stay informed, please check out our Facebook page:

Working on a comic is a lot of fun, especially when it is with a friend. Being a writer can be lonely a lot of time, so working on joint projects is definitely exciting. I found that the difference is when it comes to actually writing the story, as you don’t need to worry about describing things since that is what the art does. Mainly, all your focus is on dialogue and you have to make sure all the information is given only through dialogue. It is quite interesting, actually, to have to change your focus on how most information is given. As for marketing and all the pre- and post-production work, it is a lot like writing a novel.

You’ve also written a book (based on the Vampire Diaries) for Kindle Worlds. How was that experience?

It was a lot of fun since I got to be able to write about a character I absolutely love. There is definitely a lot we don’t know about Damon in The Vampire Diaries and it was fun to put together some of the pieces, even though it’s not canon. It was also helpful in developing a fan base and beginning my career as a writer.

You write in several genres. Do you have a favourite? And if so, why?

I am not sure what would be my favorite, but if I had to pick, it would probably be urban and historic fantasy. I love doing research on different times in history, or different places throughout the world, and learn a lot by writing A World of Vampires Series, and a novel I am working on called The Chained. Science Fiction is a close second though, as I have great interest in space exploration and grew up reading Isaac Asimov and Star Wars books. 

Can you tell us about your writing process? Where do your ideas originate? Do you have a certain writing routine?

I try to write every day, even if it is just a little. I make myself a pot of herbal tea, get my cat to lie down next to me, blast some music that inspires me (ranging from folk to German metal), and go to work in my study. That is pretty much my every day. My ideas originate from many things, such as dreams, history books, or just interactions with people on the streets. I find inspiration in everything around me.

What is your greatest challenge as a writer?

I would have to say that a lot of the time being a writer can be very lonely. Sure there is a lot of people online to talk to, but actual physical interaction is a lot different. That is why I like working at conventions, meeting people, and joining clubs like German club, soccer, and volunteering places.

Do you have a favourite author, or writing inspiration?

My favorite authors include Isaac Asimov, Kevin J. Anderson, Timothy Zahn, and I get inspired by many animes and mangas, such as Sailor Moon, Fairy Tail, and Trigun. Isaac Asimov was a very scientific writer and it is very motivating how he was able to incorporate it in his writing. When I was young, I read a lot of Timothy Zahn and Kevin J. Anderson and those stories were what made get serious about writing, along with watching/reading Sailor Moon, Trigun, and many other Japanese anime and manga.

What’s your next project? Any upcoming book secrets you care to reveal?

My next project is going to be a young adult paranormal mystery. It is still in the works, but I know it will follow a young girl who is starting her freshman year at a boarding school outside of Leavenworth, Washington. She starts hearing a voice talking to her and strange things begin happening at the school where she has to solve the mystery of what happens. I’m very excited to start working on it soon and I hope to release the first one this fall. 

You can find out more about the author and her books at her websites:

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Book Spotlight: Sevara: Dawn of Hope

Today I have a book spotlight for the YA fantasy novel, Sevara: Dawn of Hope by Damian Wampler. Enjoy!

Sevara: Dawn of Hope by Damian Wampler

Sevara’s orphanage teaches wife etiquette instead of arithmetic, domestic duties instead of grammar, and stick fighting instead of phys ed. There’s a swimming pool (but no water) and a doctor (who sells the unwanted girls to slave traders). All girls must become servant-wives, or be kicked out onto the streets with nothing. Sevara refuses to marry, and doesn’t last long on the outside.

Luckily, someone has been watching her.

Given incredible powers, Sevara must choose between protecting the city, and saving the only man she’s ever loved. Dawn of Hope is a one hundred thousand word young adult novel that will appeal to readers of all ages, and is suitable for children over the age of thirteen.

Sevara: Dawn of Hope is available at:

Author Bio:

Damian is a lifelong documentary photographer who originally hails from Newark, Delaware. Damian earned a bachelor's degree in English and Anthropology from Boston University and boarded a place bound for Kyrgyzstan shortly after, where he taught English for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. Later, he earned a Master's degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Russian, Eastern Europe and Central Asian Studies, and returned to the Kyrgyz republic as a Fulbright researcher. He returned to the United States to study digital photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He also wrote and produced a full-length play which premiered June, 2009. Damian is also the writer and creator of the Sevara graphic novel.

Author Website: 

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